As her two-year-old toddler clambers into her lap for a cuddle, Gemma Mahon carefully wiggles her pregnant tummy out of the way to make more room. The little girl has Mummy’s fair hair while admiring strangers often comment on how her big blue eyes are just like Daddy’s.
To the casual observer, they look like any other traditional young family, with another baby on the way. The only notable thing about them is how gorgeous and happy they look.
But there is more to this scene than meets the eye. This is a very modern Happy Ever After, one which illustrates perfectly that, today, no family set-up should be taken at face value.
For the little girl on Gemma’s lap is not her husband’s child. Nor is she the product of a previous relationship. Beatrice was conceived from sperm bought online — the donor a tall and dashing Danish veterinary surgeon, — after her mother had effectively given up hope of finding a decent man.
Then, incredibly, when her baby was just nine months old, 30-year-old Gemma met her Mr Right anyway. And while Ian, 46, admits to being ‘a little surprised’ about how Gemma had conceived her daughter (as first date, getting-to-know-you chit-chat it was certainly a first), it didn’t put him off.
Indeed, Gemma’s theory — which Ian supports — is that the success of their date was partly down to the fact that she was a solo (not single) mother.
Far from scaring men off, it meant she wasn’t driven by the ticking of a biological clock or in a panic to get a man to marry her — the sort of desperation men can sniff out in an instant.
‘I honestly believe that the fact I’d had a baby on my own, and was quite happy to stay single for the rest of my life, made me seem less predatory,’ she says.
Six months later, the couple had bought a house together in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, and six months after that they were married. Now they are expecting their first baby together.
Today, Gemma believes that more women, disillusioned with the dating scene and fearful that motherhood could pass them by, should follow in her footsteps.
‘I’ve seen so many friends wait for years for Mr Right to turn up,’ she says. ‘They become desperate, which only puts men off.
‘And then, if they do meet Mr Right, they may find they’ve left it too late to have kids.
‘But in my experience, you can have both — maybe just not in the order you expected.’
The latest figures from the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority show a 226 per cent rise in solo mothers since 2006. Wider research shows that professional women the world over are freezing their eggs ‘due to a dearth of educated men to marry’, resulting in a boom in the sperm donation industry.
Yet according to the Office for National Statistics, women in their mid-40s are now almost twice as likely to be childless as their parents’ generation.
It was a scenario that Gemma, a recruitment consultant, was keen to avoid.
However, as soon as she met Ian, they immediately hit it off.
‘The fact I was no longer searching for this Mr Right meant I was very relaxed about dating,’ she says. ‘And I truly believe the fact I was no longer worrying about meeting this perfect man actually led me to meet him.’
Ian, who has four children from previous relationships and is now adopting Beatrice, says: ‘I must admit I was quite surprised when Gemma told me about how she’d conceived Beatrice, but it never worried me.
‘Gemma is so open, funny — and brave. Having Beatrice was not a decision she made lightly, but it is typical of her strength and what attracted me to her.’
He adds: ‘Certainly, I know of men in their 30s who’ve dated women of the same age and there is that unspoken pressure that they will be wanting to have a baby soon. It frightens many men away.
‘But obviously, if a woman has already chosen to have a baby, that pressure is taken away.’
As for his relationship with Beatrice, he says: ‘She came with Gemma. She is part of Gemma, and I love her for that.
‘Maybe some men would have a problem accepting another man’s baby, but I love Beatrice as if she’s my own daughter. She’s started to say “Dadda” and I feel I am her dad.’
Another positive in this unorthodox set-up is that there is no ‘other dad’ to interfere in bringing up Beatrice, says Gemma.
‘There is no daddy down the road she has to see, no issues over who has her for Christmas or where she spends her birthdays.’
She says her daughter will grow up not only knowing about her background, ‘but being proud of how she was conceived’.
Already, she often tells Beatrice about her heritage as a bedtime story. ‘I usually start by saying, “Once upon a time there was someone who wanted to be a Mummy . . .”
‘I also plan in future to have a laminated book made for her with her personal story.
‘And when Beatrice is 18 she will be able to find out who her daddy donor is and meet him if she wishes.’
Gemma admits being pregnant now is a ‘completely different experience’.
‘I can’t compare the two. When I was pregnant with Beatrice, it was just about me and her. This time, everything is shared with Ian.
‘Honestly, I have loved both pregnancies. I actually feel lucky to have experienced one as a solo mum and one as a married mum.’
While friends and family all know about Beatrice’s conception, strangers are often taken aback.
‘People often say to Ian that Beatrice has his eyes,’ she says. ‘Sometimes we don’t say anything — but if, for example, we’re at a dinner party, it is always a conversation stopper. I must admit it does sometimes give me a wicked thrill to tell the story — but mostly I am so proud.’
Indeed, Gemma is so proud that she wants to promote single mums by choice, saying it could be the answer to other women finding their ‘Happy Ever After’.
‘Having a baby by yourself is a life-changing gift,’ she says. ‘I hope my story inspires others to do the same.’
Article source: www.dailymail.co.uk 1st September 2017